Green Burial at Circle Sanctuary

Spring is the time to celebrate approaching intimacy, and what is more intimate than sharing a loved one’s passing?  The first  ‘green burial’ took place at the cemetery at Circle Sanctuary in Mount Horeb, WI. this past weekend. Selena Fox presided over the ceremony. Many Pagans claim to want a green burial, but what is it like?  I talked with Robert Paxton, a Circle Sanctuary minister, who participated in funeral, as part of a community weekend at Circle Sanctuary.

Describe what the funeral experience was like?

It was very much different from any funeral I had attended. The person who had died was a long-term member of the Madison folk music and dancing scene. The funeral was a genuinely beautiful and touching event. Family and friends, about a dozen, helped with every element from carrying the casket to the gravesite. They sang song and read poetry. They spoke as they were individually moved to about the life of the person who had passed. Typically, the funeral director said, they would lower the casket into the grave, there would be just a few words and the family would step away and head down the hill. Community members were there to help fill in the grave. It didn’t go like that. We placed the casket in the grave, and the family looked over at the pile of dirt and the half-dozen shovels. They picked them up and got to work. The grave was nearly filled when they tired and the community members took over. They were very engaged in the whole process. Once the mound had risen, they took flowers from the earlier memorial service and placed them lovingly on the grave. One of the funeral party, in one of those ‘ah-ha’, deep truth moments, took a night crawler from one of the last shovelfuls of dirt.  He laid it on top of the mound and said, “Here is the first one, get to work!” It was a very loving experience. It was done very clear-eyed, we are committing these remains back to the earth. We will honor her with this last loving and personal act. At the same time they were completely realistic and open about the nature of what had happened. It was the most truthful funeral I had ever experienced.

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